The Question Shift That Takes Me From Regret to Action
How one, actionable shift can help you turn those moments of regret into moments of actual growth
We all have those bad habits that just seems to always get the better of us. Question is, how do you react afterwards and are you asking yourself the right questions to actually grow?
I came into college weighing in at 160 pounds and in less than 2 years, I found myself passing the 220 lbs mark. I’d like to tell you that the 60 lb gain was all full of muscle and, to be honest, some of it was (I hope). However, after a shocking find that my body fat percentage went up to 25%, it was clear that most of it wasn’t. As of today, I’ve managed to drop my fat and gain muscle to be at 19%. I’ve still got a long way to go, and these past few weeks have been full of overeating and stress. So when I saw the scale increasing, I decided to look back at what really works for me and what doesn’t.
One of the most powerful tools in my self-development process was the shifting of how I analyzed the mistakes I was making. Originally, my typical regret process went something like this:
- Go out of control on a binge
- Be filled with regret
- Ask “why didn’t I do this?” or “Why didn’t I do that?” and just constantly think about the hundreds of other things I could have done other than what I did
- Create a plan to “change everything”
- Repeat the binge
- Repeat the entire process
Now there’s a lot wrong with this process but the most powerful shift I made has to do with step #3. Let’s use the example of overeating.
The morning after overeating I would look at myself in the mirror and ask questions like,
“Why didn’t I stop when I was full?”
“Why didn’t I eat the veggies instead?”
“Why didn’t I drink two glasses of water?”
“Why didn’t I skip desert?”
And the list would continue forever, eventually reaching even ridiculous points where I would ask questions like “Why didn’t I join the wrestling team in high school which would have put me on a strict body building regime?”
And that is the problem with this approach. The options are infinite and they come extremely overwhelming. A binge eating session ends with 200 different plans on 200 different things that I plan to do. As you can guess, that would fail pretty quickly.
The Solution: Shift the Didn’t to Did
About 6 months ago, my habits shifted and that was when I started to get fit again. I realized that it was because I shifted the original questions of “Why didn’t I do x,y,z” to “Why did I do what I did?”
Instead of asking why I didn’t eat the veggies, I started asking why did I eat the cake. Instead of why I didn’t stop eating, I asked why did I keep eating. The shift might seem small at first, but it’s pretty powerful because it forces you to focus on the root of the problem rather than everything else.
When I asked why I didn’t eat the veggies, the reasons were infinite. They were far, they aren’t the ones I like, etc. However, when I ask why did I chose to eat so much cake, the reasons are pretty finite
- It was in front of me
- The sugar rush makes me feel good
- My plate was pretty big so I put a big piece on it
By shifting the focus from what I didn’t do over to what I actually did do, I was able to analyze the root causes for my issues. Rather than making 20 different plans on how I would try other things, I now am able to make 2 small changes:
- Get smaller plates
- Keep the cake far from sight and keep the veggies in sight
This principle can apply to any reflection of habits.
Instead of “Why didn’t I go to the gym?” ask “why did I stay in the house and watch Netflix instead of the gym?”
The first can have infinite reasons, the second forces you to actually analyze who you are. You might just find that your hesitate to go the gym has nothing to do with the actual workout but instead that you just love staying in your house. In which case now you just have to create a home workout plan.
Summary Point: When analyzing your mistakes or regrets, focus on why you did what you did vs. why you didn’t do something else.
Hope this helps, let me know how it goes!